The ongoing dispute between the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and big rice investors in the country reached a new level today with the NCS threatening to close down one of Nigeria’s foremost international hotels, The Intercontinental Hotels, Lagos.
The NCS had threatened that it may shut down the hotel following the non-payment of retrospective duties by the hotel’s parent company, the Milan Group.
This was disclosed earlier today by the national public relations officer of the NCS,Wale Adeniyi.
Findings revealed that the rice industry is perplexed with this latest move as they argue that it is against the rule of law for any action to be taken in any dispute before the decision of the judicial system. This is because some of the investors have already lodged their cases in court. Stakeholders, who commented on the development, said that the sealing of a global hospitality chain like The Intercontinental Hotels, Lagos, for no apparent legal non-compliance may not spell well for Nigeria’s image apart from the embarrassment and inconvenience for its guests.
The NCS is demanding retrospective duties from the rice investors for imports pertaining to 2014 while the investors have claimed that the quota allocations did not comply with stipulated regulations issued only in December and were also biased against the bonafide investors.
Following the confusion that trailed the 2014 quotas, the quotas for 2015 were also issued, cancelled and later reissued again. The implementation of the policy received a lot of criticism from the rice industry as the presidential directives were not complied with in the process.
The affected rice investors, who had invested billions of naira in the rice value chain, have been catalysts in Nigeria’s recent initiatives to be self-sufficient in rice production.
The immediate former minister of agriculture, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, had in August 2014, said that “our rice today, in terms of total value added to our local economy, in terms of gross value across all the states is N750billion since we started in 2012.”